A simple request to help decorate a grave for Memorial Day from a relative who had moved hundreds of miles away has turned into an annual service and fundraiser for the Moniteau County Historical Society.
In 2015, a relative who had relocated asked Gloria Knipp to decorate a headstone in the Clarksburg cemetery. Knipp realized the issue was likely common in the area.
"It just seemed like other people who lived a distance away also would need that service," Knipp said.
From there, she decided to organize the Decorate A Grave project with the Moniteau County Historical Society.
As chairwoman of membership for the organization, she said it made sense for the organization to sponsor the project. The historical society keeps record of everyone buried in the cemeteries and has membership throughout the county.
The organization purchases artificial flowers in bulk for the project. The saddles are large groups bound together that secure on the gravestone. Roses, sunflowers and patriotic variety arrangements are ideal for the spring. Saddles are $40 and bushes in multiple sizes vary from $3-$7. For an additional $10, volunteers will place the flowers on the headstones or in vases.
The organization orders about 200 saddles and floral bushes from R&S Floral Factory Warehouse in Springfield. Finding a dealer nearby proved difficult.
"In other areas of Missouri, stores will pop up around Memorial Day to get those," Knipp said. "It's more of a southern thing than a northern thing."
Burgers' Smokehouse provides a truck to the group after they drop off deliveries in Springfield.
"That is a big help to us to get that many at once," Knipp said.
Once they arrive, they are stored in the Cultural Heritage Center at 201 N. High St. until all flowers are sold.
In the beginning, the flowers were only available around Memorial Day. But the fundraiser has grown to offer fall and winter options. In the fall, warm-colored mums and pumpkins are available. Around Christmas, poinsettias and red carnations.
Volunteer James Albin said sales are going well. More bushes were purchased last week because they sold out quickly.
The fundraiser helps the organization preserve county history, Knipp said. Providing the service is why it began and why they hope to continue.
"People are happy because they're getting beautiful flowers for their loved ones' graves," Knipp said.
To purchase flowers, call the organization at 573-796-3563. The office is open 1-5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.